Friday will see the launch of the FCC’s new online public inspection file system. The FCC took some commonsense steps to simplify the transition to an online file and avoid unnecessary effort for stations going forward. Specifically, the FCC will automatically upload to a station’s online public inspection file most applications and reports that are electronically filed with the FCC. However, stations should not be complacent that the FCC is assuming responsibility for the public file being complete.
The commission says removing these requirements will allow broadcasters and cable operators to make their entire public inspection file available online and permit them to stop maintaining local public files.
The FCC released the tentative agenda for its May 25 Open Meeting today, and topping the agenda is an item that could lift a burden that has been on the shoulders of commercial broadcasters for half a century. The FCC will vote on adopting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to eliminate the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain copies of letters and emails from the public in their public inspection files.
The American Cable Association says the FCC should require inclusion in station public files “all agreements between separately owned TV stations in the same market, particularly those that facilitate the coordination of retransmission consent negotiations.”
Tomorrow, the FCC will proffer a new batch of disclosure rules to replace the ones it passed in 2007 but hasn’t been enforcing. Like the 2007 rules, the proposed ones call for more detailed programming reports from stations so the FCC can better assess whether they are meeting public interest obligations. But the new ones are not as demanding as the 2007 ones. Stations would still have to put their public files online and, unlike before, include political advertising records showing the purchases of time by candidates, PACs and other political advocacy groups.